The House that Love Built

This Giving Tuesday Blog is written by our Development Director, Bridget Kesner, to give you a feeling of why she loves working at the Ronald McDonald House and why you should consider donating to RMHC this holiday season.

I work in a House that love built and every day when I walk through the doors my heart expands just a little bit.  In my role as the Development Director I have the opportunity to meet a lot of people. One of the questions I am asked most often is, “how can you do that job?” my answer is simply, how can I not.

The House has been a haven for families for over 32 years, that’s a lot of families and a lot of memories. I often find myself wondering, when I come in before the House “wakes up,” if these walls could talk what would they say?  I imagine the range of emotions our families have experienced vibrating in the quiet, the great highs and the heartbreaking lows.  The friendships that were forged around a dinner table and a shared experience.  The hugs and tears that mingled in a moment and are tattooed on one’s heart forever. The laughter and the giggles as children play and explore this big beautiful House or explore the wonders of the Secret Garden.

The heartbeat of our House changes with the seasons and the ticking of the daily clock and provides a soft place for families to land at the end of a long day. I imagine the House wrapping its arms around each family for as long as needed.  If these walls could talk, what a tale they would tell, of our families from near and far who for a moment became a part of our Ronald McDonald House story as we became a part of their family story.

As we gather around dinner tables this holiday season, I will give thanks for the opportunity to have my heart grow a little bit every day as I journey alongside these families I am called to serve.

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McNugget’s Visit to the Vet

Hi lil Buddies,

It’s McNugget!  I wanted to tell you about something that happened to me last week.

So human Mom and Dad had to go out for a while to do whatever moms and dads do.  Mom noticed that I had gotten on the counter and ate something that was bad for me.  So Mom picked me up, and Dad drove me really fast to the WVRC Pet Hospital.   I wasn’t’ sure what was going on, but when we got there, I was so excited to see so many dogs.  I thought maybe I was there to play!

The Vet started to take me to the backroom, I looked at Mom and Dad.. they looked  really worried.  I gave them a big smile to let them know that I would be okay…that made them feel better.  But now my tummy was really not feeling well.  The nice people kept saying that I would feel better soon.   I knew whatever was in my tummy, had to get out…fast.   They gave me some medicine to make me spit up and realized that I needed to be treated overnight.  I didn’t want to stay there overnight… I was scared.  I let them put an IV line in and I laid down.  Then the sweet lady came to my crate.  She said that Dad wanted me to have something.  I looked up and there in her hand was Lambchop, my favorite toy.  I was so happy!  He felt so good and I laid with him forever.

I had my own private crate.  But I got to see my new friends come in and out of the room.  I wanted to play with them, but the Vet was taking care of them so I guess we could play later.  I got sleepy and took a quick nap.  When I woke up,  I had a cone on my head!  Oh no…I had one of these before.  I hope the guys didn’t see me…how embarrassing!

The next day, I was super tired.  They took blood work, and thought it was best if I stayed another night.  Bummer, I missed my sister, Pepper.  But I really felt safe and that the staff there really cared for me.  So I knew, I just had to wait a little longer.

Finally, I heard them say, “Everything looks good!   McNugget, you get to go home”

YAY!!!.    The vet listened to my heart and took my blood pressure one more time.   Smiled at me, then took me to another room where I saw Mom and Dad.  I was so happy and relieved.  I get to go home!

I guess I learned something.  If a lid is super, duper hard to get off…maybe I shouldn’t eat what’s inside.  Also,  if something is out of my reach, I guess its better not to try to get it.  And something else I learned.  The Vet and the staff at WVRC are amazing.  I could tell that they really cared for me and that Mom and Dad were glad that they took me there.

I know that some of you have been in the hospital and that you have been through things worse than what happened to me.  But now I know how scary it can be.  Having great hospitals like Wisconsin’s Children’s Hospital and WVRC make things better because the people there are really smart and nice.  I am so lucky and thankful.

I would also like to say thanks for the well wishes from the RMH staff. That was soooo sweet of you guys to send me a card.

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Thank you, Secret Garden!

During  Thanksgiving week we are thankful for our wonderful Secret Garden and all of our Master Gardeners. It is time for us to  say goodnight to our garden for the winter. Please enjoy this poem from our Master Gardener Ann Philips.

In the Secret Garden there is a gate and a bridge and a path,

Where flowers bloomed and dinosaurs roamed.

There are evergreen trees and trees without leaves

And a silent waterfall where birds came to call.

A playhouse, a swing, a painted child’s chair,

Here in the Garden, the beauty of Seasons is everywhere.

Goodnight Secret Garden

Goodnight vegetable beds with Brussel sprouts Standing.

Goodnight frogs and butterflies and dragonflies landing.

Goodnight hummingbirds, we wish you could stay.

Goodnight tools, all cleaned and stored away.

Goodnight seeds. Goodnight bulbs.

And Goodnight Garden.

Sleep tight.

See you in the bright Spring Light.

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McNugget Update

Hi Friends,

I just got back from a walk and thought I would take a few minutes to catch you up on what’s been going on with me…McNugget.

This summer was great!  I went kayaking, paddle boarding and took some long walks with my human mom and Pepper (my awesome sister)  It’s always fun to be outside, smelling all the smells and sniffing all my friends that walk by.   I especially like all those red fire hydrants that come out of the ground.  Mom lets us sniff those and they smell the best!   It’s great being a dog!

This summer Mom and I made our regular visits to RMH and saw many of my best buddies.  I just love visiting with them!  I’m not really a morning dog, so sometimes it’s hard for me to get ready for work.  But as soon as Mom gives me a little breakfast and a Greenie for my doggie breath, I am ready to go!!

There is always something going on at RMH.  Like this summer when the Racing Sausages came!  That was the most awesome thing I had ever seen!   I love sausage.  I had no idea that Klements could make them that big.  It was like in my dreams!

Many of my little buddies showed me around the Secret Garden.  They wanted to show me  some of the vegetables that they helped plant.  I could tell they were very proud and that they liked working with Ann.  She’s the most awesome gardener in the world!!.  She even invited me to go out in the garden.  She said that I help keep the bunnies away.  I wanted to tell her that if Mom took me off the leash I could do my job a lot faster!

I love hearing about what’s going on in the Art Room.  My little friend, Nathan actually repaired my favorite toy.  I have a bad habit of pulling squeakers out of stuffed toys, so using his fabulous stitching abilities, ( learned from Holly and Stephen), he repaired the gaping hole and I am so grateful!  Thanks Nathan.

Mom was working a lot with me this summer.  We had to test for our certification again this year.  Pet Partners likes its Therapy Dogs to test every 2 years.  That always makes Mom nervous.  I think she thinks I might be naughty…who me??   Mom should listen to Aaron Rodgers…R-E-L-A-X.

So I passed the test with the highest rating, that’s when Mom knew that I was ready to interview at Children’s Hospital.   It’s been hard to not be able to visit with my buddies when they feel their worst.   The interview went well and starting in January, I can visit my friends over at the hospital.  That’s exciting!

So when you see me at RMH, the Hospital or just around, don’t hesitate to stop and pet me.  It’s okay.  It’s my job and I love it!

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‘Tis the Season to Give

Being in the hospital during the holidays is difficult for any patient, but it’s especially heart-breaking for a child. No hospitalized or seriously ill child should be away from home for the holidays! Your donation to the Ronald McDonald House will help us offer moms, dads and children a loving place to stay while they are far away from home receiving life-saving treatment.

Wondering how you can help this Giving Season? Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Participate in the Give-A-Hand promotion going on now until November 13th at your local McDonald’s!
  • Attend the Christmas Fantasy House now through November 13.
  • Visit a McDonald’s store in Northeastern WI and the UP and participate in their Giving Tree initiative.
  • Follow us on Facebook so you can stay up to date on all of our for Giving Tuesday initiatives.
  • Between Sunday November 27 and Saturday December 3 join our Giving Tuesday coffee challenge. When you get the urge to splurge on a fancy coffee drink make one at home instead and donate the cost of your fancy coffee to help us keep families close.
  • Get all your coworkers together and choose the Ronald McDonald House as your charity of choice and then hold a $5 jean day event and donate the money raised to the House.
  • Gather a group of friends and family members together and have a wish list drive http://rmhcmilwaukee.org/how-to-help/wish-list/ . Ask for donations of toothbrushes, travel size toiletries, individually wrapped snacks, new toys and new sports equipment like basketballs and soccer balls.

We provide a home away from home for families while their child is in the hospital, but we can’t do it alone. Your heartfelt donations will help provide the families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House some of the best gifts: love, laughter, joy, hope and so much more. Most of all, you’ll help keep families close.

It was a Spooktacular Halloween

The holidays are a time when everyone wants to be at home and with their families, but sometimes that isn’t possible, like the families staying here at the House. That is why our staff and volunteers wanted to make this Halloween as special as they could for those who are far from home.

 

The Halloween party started out with our guest families going around to all of the staff’s offices to trick-or-treat. Their faces lit up each time another piece of candy was added to their Jack-O-Lantern candy buckets. The staff wanted to get in on the fun too, so everyone dressed up as a food item.

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McNugget, our House Dog, and Walter and Betsy, our therapy bunnies made special appearances, complete with costumes and received plenty of love from our families

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Next was Halloween crafts in the art therapy room where kids decorated their own pumpkins and enjoyed special Halloween coloring pages. Like any party here at the House, tasty snacks were provided. A special thanks to the Nordstrom Rack Team for coming in and making delicious Halloween treats! It was a spooktacular afternoon filled with lots of laughter and fun for everyone!

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A Look Back at Our 2016 Gala

In case you were not able to attend our Gala on September 24th, here is a little recap by our Special Events Coordinator, Sara Topp.

It’s hard to truly identify what made this year’s Gala – “Gather at our Table” – such a success.

270 friends in attendance at Shully’s Cuisine & Events in Thiensville, WI,

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105 silent and live auction packages,

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a farm-to-table inspired meal, locally sourced from our friends at Mantoan Sauve Terre Farm & Three Sisters Community Farm,

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the personal stories and friendship shared by former guest families Phyllis Sommer and Kimberly Cluff,

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or the dancing to the sounds of the Stray Voltage Band to end the night.

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I am certain that each component, in addition to  many more, all played a part in creating an unforgettable and fun evening.

The annual Gala serves as the largest fundraising and friend-raising event the Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin hosts each year. It is a year-long effort that involved a team of dedicated individuals who give generously of their time, talent and treasure to support the families we serve. I have the privilege and honor of working with the talented hands behind the scenes to ensure a successful event for the House. We are  proud to announce that we have raised a record-breaking amount of more than $330,000, enabling RMHC to continue to keep families close. We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to our sponsors, guests, vendors and suppliers, dedicated committee members, RMHC staff and volunteers as well as everyone at Shully’s who helped make the night possible!

We hope you will save the date and join us in next year’s fun on Saturday, October 14th, 2017 at The Pfister Hotel downtown Milwaukee.

Intern Takes on House Volunteer Role for a Day

Two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to shadow a House volunteer shift at the House. I was so excited for the opportunity to really get to see what our volunteers do on a day-to-day basis. I had no clue what to expect, so I went in with an open mind.

I walked into the volunteer room and was handed a red apron and a set of keys and I could not have felt any more official. I was then introduced to the other volunteers that I would be shadowing and received a run-down of what a typical shift was like and reviewed the checklist of what needed to be completed during my three-hour shift. It was time to split into groups to accomplish the checklist. My team was sent to help clean a guest room that a family had just checked out of. We went to the basement and grabbed all the sheets, pillows and cleaning supplies needed. One thing that I was most surprised about was how clean the room was even before we started cleaning. The family had clearly taken really took good care of the room.

Once we finished cleaning the room and making the beds we gave a tour to a family who had just checked in and was going to be staying at the House. Just by looking at the parents I could tell they had had a long draining day. When we took them to their room their faces were so relieved to see that they would actually have a bed to sleep on. They could not thank the other volunteer and me enough. I felt like I had helped make a difference in their day even though I had just shown them around the House and took them to their room. I never completely understood the tagline “Keeping Families Close,” but after seeing how this family was going to be so close to their sick child, I realized why it is such a powerful and true statement.

Through my experience of volunteering, I was able to see a different side of the House. I was honored to meet a family who was staying at the House and work alongside the amazing volunteers who are dedicated to coming every day to make sure that this House is in the best condition for all of the families we serve.

Helping our families learn together about gardening, nature and cultivating friendships

This week we asked Ann Philips to do a feature of everything that has been going on and growing in the garden this summer.

Ann Philips is the Lead Gardener for a team of 20 University of Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener volunteers who care for the Secret Garden. Ann leads a weekly Family Garden Program to help our families learn together about gardening, nature and to cultivate friendships.
Through the generosity of Kohl’s Cares grant we are able to fund the supplies for a vegetable garden! This is growing season we have four beautiful new Cedar raised vegetable beds. Beginning in April we, UW-Extension Master Volunteers, planned and planted our crops with our guest families and staff in Family Garden Education.

We follow Square Foot Gardening, SFG, practices from the book by Mel Bartholomew. Our soil is 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss. It is light, weed free, and nutritious for vegetables. Since the beds are raised, we never walk on the soil giving better air circulation and making it easier to work. The beds are 3’x5’ and 4’x5’ so even our littlest people can reach the center to plant and harvest.

We used string to make a grid of one foot squares in each bed. Following SFG principles we planted the recommended number of seeds or plants in each square. We also planned for cucumbers to replace peas, lettuce and radish to replace harvested potatoes, and more spinach, rainbow chard and kale as space allowed. In our four beds we successfully grew and are harvesting peas, green and yellow bush beans, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, eggplant, patty pan squash, zucchini, cherry and Roma tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, carrots, radish, peppers, onions and kohlrabi. We grew containers of strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic chives, mint and oregano. We had a Jack and the Beanstalk tower of green beans and our Ketchup and Fries plant, a tomato grafted onto a potato plant. AND we dedicated one bed to herbs for use in cooking. We have basil, parsley, cilantro, stevia, pineapple sage, nasturtium, rosemary and thyme.

Every Thursday we garden together, enjoying the simple pleasures of being outside, harvesting what we have nurtured and being a part of nature. We read books about the garden (and write our own), play garden games, raise monarch caterpillars and learn about the many birds we see. This is our families’ back yard, they can pick ripe vegetables anytime and use them in their family meals. We also take our vegetables and herbs up to the kitchen for general use. Every day in the garden is an adventure!

We are growing gardeners, cultivating friendship and harvesting hope.

-Ann Philips

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Happy National Pancake Day!

McDonalds-Hotcakes-3pcs-065-heroSince pancakes are my favorite food and breakfast is my favorite meal I had to make sure and write about them at some point in my time blogging for you guys. What better way to talk about and celebrate pancakes than to fill you in on the Family Meal Program at RMHC that provides brunch and other meals to the families we serve? Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. in the second floor family meal kitchen. By serving families brunch on the weekends and dinner almost every night we hope to try and relieve some of our families financial burdens and allow them to spend more time with each other and focus on their sick child. The Family Meal Program provides meals 365 days a year!

The most common meals that are served during Family Dinner are usually chicken, tacos and pasta, but one of the favorite meals here at the House is breakfast for dinner, I mean who doesn’t love some flapjacks for dinner? There is something about pancakes that make you feel like you are at home on a Sunday morning eating brunch with your family. The loving hands that prepare these comforting foods for the families help create that homelike feeling even though they may be far from home.

Thank you to everyone that has served or provided dinners or brunches for families here at the House, you are one of the key pieces to helping us Keeping Families Close.

If you and your family and friends are interested in providing a dinner or brunch for the families here at the house and want to learn more about our Family Meal Program, click here. If you already know you want to volunteer check out our calendar to find the available date for a family meal.